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Young Consumers Ages 13-25 Love Brands, Demand They Take a Stand (Nearly 70% Say it’s A Must) – Yet Growing Ad Nausea Has Them Standing Up To Block

Study finds that while 66% Use Ad Blockers, Just as Many opt to Follow Brands on Social Media and 84% Would Rather Watch Ads Than Pay; But Brands Beware – Breaking Up is Just So Easy to Do


(Anaheim, CA)–  Defy Media‘s Acumen Research in partnership with TMI Strategy, the brand consultancy of that specializes in insights from and behaviors of young people, today revealed from the mainstage at Vidcon findings from a new study aimed at understanding this audience’s current relationship with brands in the digital space. The study explores how young consumers’ (ages 13-25) love for brands can co-exist with their decreasing interest in ads and provides a window into what type of ads are connecting across their most preferred social platforms, as well as what’s driving this consumer group’s choices to bond, buy or opt to block.

“Following last year’s Acumen Report: Youth Video Diet, we took a deeper look at young people’s perceptions of ads and their social brand connections.   While we found that 13-25-year-old consumers are going out of their way to block ads, they are also just as willing to follow and invite brands into their social feeds, putting brands on the same footing as friends and family,” stated Andy Tu, DEFY Media CMO.



Increasingly, young consumers are going out of their way to attempt to go ad-free across both mobile and desktop/laptop devices.  The study found that 66% of those surveyed reported using an ad blocker on at least one device with most using ad blockers across both mobile and desktop. Outside of ads being intrusive, this age group is also conscious of being “targeted” with 57% of those surveyed saying that “targeted ads violated my privacy.

Yet, even as the demo goes out of their way to avoid ads – young people generally accept that ads are part of the viewing experience and part of their online life, with 80% saying ads on the internet are a “regular part of life and 78% stated they are not offended by product placements in video, as well as in movies or TV.  Their acceptance of brands that advertise also explains why they’re not willing to shell out their dough for an ad-free experience. Despite this demo’s penchant to employ ad blockers, 84% say they’d rather see ads than pay for video or access to social.

But, they still want optionality and to view the ads on their terms.  When given the choice to skip – they WILL skip or scroll past ads.  And on the two video platforms most habituated to ad skipping – Snapchat and YouTube – the majority of those surveyed, do.

However, young people are not exactly passive when it comes to ads or brands they don’t like.

The stronger active response to Snapchat and YouTube ads also reflects the medium (video) and purpose of these platforms—to fulfill various needs by watching and sharing those videos. Ads can feel more intrusive when interrupting a video which prompts a stronger reaction. Young people generally want to feel in control of their viewing environments. Tools like “Hide” or “Report” empower them to shape their social experience and tailor it to their liking.


Depending on the platform, anywhere from 30% – 40% of young people say they recently looked at an ad on social because it caught their eye – except on Snapchat, where young people essentially don’t see (or want to see!) any ads. And 1 in 5 report they took a positive action such as liking/following a brand or sharing the ad. Instagram is the leader on ads people pay attention to and interact with.



The study finds that young consumers are interested in what brands have to say: 62% follow at least one brand on social media (primarily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).   And, a striking 71% consider ads on a social to be a good way to find out about new brands. In fact, the study found that young people’s discovery of a brand via an advertisement was nearly on par with good old word-of-mouth.


Lest brands think “make it funny, and they will come”, it appears it’s not always humor that wins with this set- just 10% overall say “entertaining or humorous content” is one of the top reasons to follow a brand on social, and just 1% say entertainment is the only reason to follow a brand.  What young consumers really want is information.  The primary reason young consumers follow brands is to get the latest info on products and events. It’s incredibly important for a young person to be “in the know”—it contributes to their social status.


We know that young people are loyal brand consumers, but they’re not without opinions -and a desire to act on them. So, what sparks this fickle group to deeply engage with a brand or actively disengage?


As one might expect, unfollowing a brand goes hand in hand with no longer using that brand – 76% reported they stopped using a brand after unfollowing it.  But, it’s repetitive, boring, and/or irrelevant content that tops young people’s choice to disconnect from a brand on social media at a significant 39%.   Social responsibility sits closely behind with 34% (net) stating they will stop following a brand because of something political/environmental/social they don’t like or that the brand doesn’t reflect diversity.


Over half of respondents (53% net) stated they will also stop buying a brand if it did not meet their expectations regarding social responsibility. Top reasons: discriminates against certain groups of people, negatively impacted animals or environment, or used child labor/unfair labor practices.


Young people will stay engaged with brands (i.e. follow on social, comment, share) when the content stays fresh and consistently speaks directly to what’s in it for them.  This concept of “what’s in it for me” might not be new, but it has evolved from discounts and freebies to information and trendsetting.





Not surprisingly, consumers will stop using a brand if it lets them down. This can be due to price increases and product quality issues, but it’s also due to actions not in line with young people’s values and beliefs – yet, they expect brand to take a stand and express their beliefs – even at the risk of losing them.


Young people not only want to see social responsibility in the companies they follow, they demand it; a large majority (69%) believe brands should stand up for what they believe in, even if controversial – and, over half (58%) say a brand’s ads should include the company’s values and beliefs.


While young adults ages 19-25 are more likely to say they would stop buying a brand due to product issues (56% vs. 48% for the 13-18 set), social responsibility issues are equally important to all ages (53% for both teens and 19-25 year olds). Clearly, young people want to spend their money in line with their beliefs.


The desire for brands to include their values in advertising may arise from the relative few who seek information on a brand’s social stance or charitable initiatives. Only 11% actively sought information on a brand’s social, environmental or political position, employee diversity, or the causes it supports.


Andy Tu concluded, “The results show that for young consumers the old playbook of media and creative applies less and less and that connecting with them is about doing it on their terms in ways that are visually and emotionally appealing and relevant to them.”


Data was collected via an online survey distributed to individuals age 13–25 years old living in the United States. Removed from the analysis were individuals with completion times of less than 5 minutes and those younger than 13 years or older than 25 years. Results have been weighted to create representations across gender, age and parents’ education matching those reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. This means the opinions of 13-year-old females, 25-year-old males, and everything in between are represented as they would in the general U.S. population. The final sample includes 1,334 observations. With an estimated U.S. population of 59 million 13–25 year olds, this sample size allows for a 2.7% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.



DEFY is built on the idea that media should be as meaningful and dynamic as the audiences it’s made for, creating expansive and authentic content brands – SMOSH, Screen Junkies, Clevver, AWEme, BREAK and Made Man – that young people obsess over. Powered by in-house studios and the most adept talents and producers, DEFY has uniquely scaled its digital sensibility, expanding 75 regularly scheduled programs across more than 25 video platforms, including SVOD, television and film.  In a world where viewers hold the power, DEFY’s brands have earned more than 110 million followers on YouTube and the world’s largest social platforms combined, driving more than 800MM total video views each month through content that matters to young audiences. Learn more about DEFY and our obsession-worthy brands at



TMI is a strategy group that uncovers insights about young people to develop creative solutions that drive social change. Fueled by’s proprietary data from its over 5.5 million members involved in more than 270 cause initiatives, TMI uncovers what motivates young people to connect with companies and causes they care about. (Yeah, when we called ourselves Too Much Information, we meant it.) Not your typical agency, every project TMI takes on has positive impact on people, the planet, or both — and 100% of TMI’s profits support Learn more at:  •  @TMI_Strategy  •